My car’s tires tear soft green husks off the walnuts in the dirt road. Decades ago packs of farm boys would scavenge the brown nuts from where they roll to the bottoms of the ruts, and take them off to a flat rock to crack them. They thought of carts and trucks as walnut preparation machines. That rock is still within sight somewhere if I knew where to look from the road, but it’s covered with moss now. The moss hasn’t been scruffed by boys’ shoes since the web browser was invented.
Torn walnut husks bleed brown, sticky oil that is hard to clean from hands and pants, but especially stubborn on cuticles and nails. Young boys would have suffered that lesson from their moms, one time only, and would, ever after, know the art of cracking walnuts with white shirts and hands.
Lost country lore, and all that. But lost knowledge means more than just lost mental content. As we lose lore, we lose chunks of our sensorium. I only see the green balls in the road and feel them thump under the rubber tires because my dad was one of those country boys once. And once, with me the little boy in tow, he walked over to a rut to check on how the nuts were getting de-hulled by the traffic. That moment, he painted his boyhood walnuts into my future roads where I would have never seen them, and made me able to feel the shudders in my car’s suspension where my backside would have otherwise felt nothing. Tradition doesn’t veil the world from the artist; tradition paints the world for the artist.